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Perimeter drains vs crack repair: which one do I need?

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, February 18, 2021

Installing a perimeter drain in the basement is not an inexpensive venture, so if you have a basement water problem, when do you know it’s time to install a perimeter drain versus just fixing the water leak? The Crack Daddy, Adam Tracy, explains.

Narrator: It’s time once again for the “Crack Man Podcast” hosted by A1 Foundation Crack Repair. I’m Darren Kincaid here with the Crack Daddy, Adam Tracy. Together, Adam and the Crack Man Rich Comeras have over 30 years’ experience in the construction industry and over 25 years as the core of A1 Foundation Crack Repair. This podcasts provides expert basement waterproofing, concrete repair, and preventative maintenance tips for homeowners and businesses. A1 Foundation’s valuable insight will help avert a disastrous flood within the basement, health problems associated with water infiltration, and protect your biggest investment….your home. The topic of today’s podcast: The topic of today’s podcast: Perimeter drains vs. crack repair - which one do I need?

Narrator: Today we are blessed with the sage wisdom of the Crack Daddy, Adam Tracy. So Adam, I can’t imagine installing a perimeter drain in the basement would be an inexpensive venture. So, if you have a basement water problem, when do you know it’s time to install a perimeter drain versus just fixing the water leak?

Adam: You’re absolutely correct. It is not an insignificant investment into your home, installing the perimeter drain. And for those that are not 100% sure what a perimeter drain is, there’s full perimeter and then there’s partial perimeter, but for purposes of what we’re going to talk about they’re basically the same here.

You’ll have a sump pump that gets installed into a foundation floor, and around the interior perimeter of the floor. The contractor will break that floor, dig down to the footing or potentially below it and install a pipe system that acts as a runway or highway to collect water and then route it to the sump pump. They then cover that with crushed stone and concrete. You’re not actually going to see the pipes, but you’ll see the cut on the floor when they do that.

So, if you think of your entire basement, it might be 50x30 or much larger, or maybe smaller. It’s a pretty significant project, takes a lot of work, takes a lot of labor, and it can be a big investment in your home. We do see these things pop-up in terms of questions quite often, and because of the nature of what it is, it is the biggest water-proofing project that you can do on an existing home. So, people tend to look at that and gravitate towards it as, “Is this the best option?” And while perimeter drain systems have their place, it doesn’t always solve every water issue that can happen in a basement.

Perimeter drain systems are designed and primarily used in areas where you have a higher water table. When you are investigating a house that has a water issue, it’s important to understand where the water is coming in from. When you see water coming in around the perimeter of the home, hence perimeter drains, it’s a good indication that you have a higher water table. Especially when you’re dealing with concrete foundations, concrete is very good at keeping water out.

The Hoover Dam is made of concrete, all the dams are made of concrete now, so it’s inherently good at keeping water out. Water comes into foundations when there’s a flaw in the concrete typically, and that flaw can be a crack, it can be tie rod pipe penetrations, it can be cracks in the floor, it can also be a gap or a deficiency where the floor and the wall meet, and that’s where we see perimeter drains tending to be most successful in their application. So, if you think that there’s water coming around in multiple spots everywhere around the foundation where the floor and the wall meet, that is a very good indication that you have a high water table. Now, an intermediary step to going for the full perimeter drain system is to look at installing a sump pump. A sump pump is a much lower cost investment into the house and what that would do is that would take the pressure off of the floor and that may solve your problem. Now when it comes to crack repair, a perimeter drain does not solve a leaking foundation crack.

With a leaking foundation crack, you have water coming above the floor generally, so typically, you’ll see the crack that goes from the bottom to the top, you may see a pipe penetration that’s leaking, you may see the dimples that are water coming through the walls. If you have an older stone foundation, you’ll have water coming through between stones as well, blocks, same deal, you’ll have water that may come through blocks, it may come through cracks in blocks. With a perimeter drain, a perimeter drain is not going to solve this problem. A perimeter drain is a highway for water to go to a sump pump and then be ejected outside safely in an area where it’s not going to come back in.

So, when do you need a crack repair and when do you need a perimeter drain? If your problem is just coming through a pointed area like a crack, a pipe penetration, maybe if it’s mold stone foundation you have a couple areas in the walls that have water coming through, this is when you need to spot treat those areas. We like the joke saying that, “we prefer to do surgery with a scalpel, not a sledgehammer”. The perimeter drain is a full system around the whole house. You may only have one spot in your entire foundation that has a problem, so a foundation crack repair will kill that issue right away and be able to not have to invest in a major, major system upgrade in terms of putting in a whole perimeter drain. So, it’s really about identifying where the water is coming in and understanding what options are really on the table for that. We like to try to fix the problem “that is the problem” versus trying to create and understand problems that aren’t there.

Narrator: Thanks Adam for explaining the difference between a perimeter drain and a standard crack repair for fixing a basement water problem. So, it’s a good idea to get a second opinion before installing a perimeter drain.

If you have a basement water problem and think you need a professional, or, if you’d like more information on foundation crack repair and basement waterproofing topics, please visit or call Rich at (866) 929-3171. Or you can email Rich at Thanks for listening and keep that basement dry.

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